Talks needed to boost Japan-U.S. alliance
Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the automatic ratification of the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty--without the approval of the House of Councillors--amid demonstrators surrounding the Diet building.
There is no question that the Japan-U.S. alliance has played an important role in ensuring peace, stability and economic prosperity in Japan and the rest of Asia during the past half century.
Setting aside the way the revised treaty was approved by the Diet, the political decision of the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi to revise the treaty and maintain the bilateral alliance was correct.
The conflicts surrounding the 1960 security treaty mirrored the Cold War between the East and West abroad and a showdown between conservatives and reformists at home. At that time, this country was completing its postwar reconstruction and entering a period of high economic growth. Public opinion was split over the revised security treaty, with memories of tragic war experiences still fresh in many people's minds.
Govt appeals to public
The government and the Liberal Democratic Party, which were promoting revision of the security treaty, appealed to the public by promising to correct inequalities of the original security treaty signed in 1951 and clarify the U.S. obligation to defend Japan. A group opposing revision, including the Japan Socialist Party, insisted the pact be abolished, saying it would make it easier for Japan to become embroiled in a war.
Lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties, as well as the general public, spent a huge amount of political energy on the issue. After the LDP steamrolled a bill to ratify the revised security treaty through the House of Representatives on May 19-20, 1960, large-scale demonstrations against the security treaty took place.
In mid-June of the year, Michiko Kanba, a 22-year-old University of Tokyo student, was crushed to death during a clash between demonstrators and riot police, and a planned visit to Japan by then U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower was canceled. The Yomiuri Shimbun and six other Tokyo-based newspaper companies issued a joint appeal to the demonstrators that said, "Abandon violence and protect parliamentarism."
Kishi announced his resignation right after the security treaty went into effect on June 23, 1960.
The Japan-U.S. alliance, which was born after many difficulties were overcome, effectively staved off the military threat posed by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
In the post-Cold War period, the bilateral alliance functioned as a deterrent to new threats from regional conflicts, including that on the Korean Peninsula, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. By redefining the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, Japan and the United States came to regard their alliance as a kind of public asset to bolster the stability of Asia-Pacific region.
The Japanese and U.S. governments later reviewed the Guideline for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, increasing the effectiveness of the bilateral alliance.
South Korea and Southeast Asian nations were now seriously concerned about the deterioration in the Japan-U.S. relationship caused by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's poor diplomacy--evidence that other Asian nations also perceive the Japan-U.S. alliance as a public asset.
Ironically, Hatoyama's words and deeds, which could have been interpreted as distancing Japan from the United States gave many people a good opportunity to reconsider the Japan-U.S. relationship. It is vital for us to think about how to deepen and develop the Japan-U.S. alliance based on history and past developments in the relationship between the two countries.